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Boardroom Q&A: Justin Herbert

The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback talks everything from Tom Brady and baseball to investing and NIL, and how the Bolts can win the Super Bowl.

In just two seasons, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has established himself as one of the NFL‘s elite with a cannon for a right arm. With endorsement deals with Nike, Bose, Head & Shoulders, FedEx, and Chipotle, among others, the 24-year-old is already a bankable star with an enormously bright future.

Tom Brady agreed, calling the University of Oregon product to invite him to release his first NFT collection on Autograph, launching next week, as part of its “The Future Is…” campaign alongside Sabrina Ionescu, Devin Booker, Coco Gauff, and Collin Morikawa.

Herbert said he started getting interested in cryptocurrency two years ago in the Chargers’ quarterback room, where veteran QB Chase Daniel taught him a lot about it.

“Fast forward a year, Tom Brady reaches out to me to be a part of this awesome opportunity to create something unique and something for the fans to be able to interact with,” Herbert told Boardroom. “We’ve found these unique moments from my career so far to create and mint those.”

In a conversation with Boardroom, Herbert discussed everything from Brady and baseball to investing and NIL, ending with what the Bolts have to do to reach the NFL mountaintop.

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SHLOMO SPRUNG: Did Brady reach out to you personally?

JUSTIN HERBERT: He did. It was really cool, and I’ve met him a couple times. We played against each other back in 2020, but I was always a huge fan of him and watching him over the past couple of decades has been awesome. 

SS: Did he call you saying it’s Tom Brady and you were like, “yeah, whatever. Sure. 

JH: He called me a couple of years ago, actually, prior to entering the NFL, and then a text message following up and talking about it. That meant a lot to me.  

SS: In preparing for this interview, I googled “Justin Herbert investments.” The top-10 results were all about your trading cards. Do you pay attention to any of that, or follow what’s going on in the trading card market? 
JH: I actually collected trading cards growing up a little bit. I didn’t have a super great collection. I had some cards passed down to me, and I always thought it was cool that maybe one day I could be on a trading card. And I think an NFT is kind of similar to that. There are these rare moments that you can collect and keep up with. It’s been a great opportunity so far. And as long as I’m playing good football and doing my best on and off the field, all that extra stuff can take care of itself. 

SS: You mentioned the Chargers quarterback room and Chase Daniel teaching you about crypto a little bit. Do you still follow and keep up with that world?
JH: Yeah. I have an accountant and have followed it over the past couple of years. And it might be down now, but everything’s down in the market. The market in general is down, so it hasn’t been good on anyone. 

SS: Do you have investment deals or an investment fund or do you have equity in certain things, or what’s your overall investment strategy? 
JH: For the most part, it’s to be safe and to continue playing football as long as I can. I’ve got a financial advisor who handles all that. And if I had enough time, I’d love to look into the financials of exactly where everything’s going. I have a rough idea, but for me, it’s more about being able to continue playing football. Football needs all my attention, and unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to really dive that deep into the financial side of things. But I’ve got a rough idea of it.

SS: How has living in Los Angeles and being a major name in the L.A. area helped you on the business side?

JH: It’s been a great opportunity so far because the community in general has done so much to help our team, and we’re not a team without the people to show up and support. The community has been great, and we’ve actually started a lot of community initiatives, whether it’s a school in inner city L.A. or down in Orange County where we currently are practicing. But the community’s been awesome, and to have their support and to be able to show up and continue to support our games and our practices, it continues to elevate our team and us personally as well.

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SS: You grew up in Oregon. You went to Oregon. Was it always a sure thing that you were going be a Nike athlete?

JH: To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to go to Oregon. I didn’t really have many offers coming out of high school, so I was maybe thinking baseball. But Oregon came around late my senior year, and I was always a big Duck fan and ended up going there and playing for four years and had so much fun at the University of Oregon. And I was so thankful for Uncle Phil [Knight] and all the stuff that Nike had provided us. To me, there was never a doubt in my mind that if I ever had the chance, I was always going to be a Nike guy.

SS: Do you ever think about what would’ve happened if you took that baseball path?

JH: That’s a good question. I don’t think I’d be here today, for sure. I don’t know if I quite had the stuff to continue playing past college or even high school, but I’m glad football worked out. I think it’s been great being in L.A. and being a part of the Chargers organization. I played pitcher and first base, so I batted third and could hit decently, but throwing the ball was what I was better at. I felt like I could throw pretty hard, maybe low 90s, but other than that, I didn’t have too many pitches.

SS: It seems like the arm has translated pretty well to football, so you have that going for you. Is there a brand that you don’t endorse yet that you want to?

JH: For the most part, I’ve been very happy with my endorsements, and Autograph has done a great job of working with me to create these unique NFTs. But at the same time, I mentioned Nike and all these authentic brands that I feel comfortable with and I feel represent me well, I think those ones are the best. So for me to mention those and talk about those, that’s kind of the deal. I’m sure there are others out there, but with football and all this going on, I think that’s the best plan right now.

SS: A lot of wide receivers have been paid big money this offseason. What are your thoughts on that, and where do you think the league is headed on that end?

JH: I think it’s great for the game, to continue to make sure that people are properly compensated. We re-signed Mike Williams to a great deal, and he’s been a huge part of our offense. Without him, we’re a different team, and we need him. And to have him be around the facility for three more years is awesome. I’m really excited to see what things that he can do. 

Justin Herbert (10) celebrates with Mike Williams (81) during the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers on October 31, 2021, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SS: NIL has been a major differentiator in the last year in collegiate athletics. Oregon has the Division Street program. What are your thoughts are on NIL in general and what the athletic program is doing to help student athletes in that area?

JH: I think it’s a really tough situation because you’ve got pros and cons to both sides. I think it’s great that people are able to make money off their names, and I think the ultimate goal of anyone is to get a job and to be safe and have a family and grow up and do all those great things. But at the same time, it does complicate some things for the college level. So I think people are just trying to wade through and finding their own way of what’s right. And maybe it would be good to create some more legislation for making rules and going all through that so it’s a fair playing field. But it’s new and kind of unknown right now.

Oregon has done their best to create those opportunities for their players, and I know the players appreciate that. I’ve got a brother that plays there right now, and all the guys are excited about that, but there’s a lot of unknown. So I think that’s kind of the thing we’re going to have to watch over the next couple of years of where that goes and what that looks like. 

SS: Have you thought about how you would’ve navigated that if it was around when you were playing? 

JH: No. I’m glad that I left college at the right time. I think it would’ve made things a little too complicated. I just loved playing football, waking up, going to school, and playing football. I thought that’s all the opportunity that I could ever need. And there was a time to put those business ideas on, and I think that’s in the NFL when you’re older. But during college, it was football and school. So that was good for me.

SS: Obviously, the other team in L.A. did pretty well last season. What do the Chargers need to do to be in that spot next February?

JH: It takes a full season. It takes everyone staying healthy. It takes execution, week in and week out. And it takes a team, and it starts in OTAs. I think we did a great job this past offseason of working together and having all those guys show up and committing to these optional practices that they don’t have to be at. But to have all those guys, for them to commit and come in and get better, that was a great step. So now it’s heading into camp and getting ready for the regular season and continuing to push forward from there.

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